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Architectures of Sadness (VI): Comillas’ Graveyard

The cemetery of Comillas appears thanks to some peculiar circumstances. The ingredients needed for its creation were the abandonment of an old parish church, the need to create a cemetery, and the sensitivity of a population to decide to use the ruin as an enclosure for this function.

This place has two very different moments in its history. The first corresponds to its “colonization”, where a standard construction is simply placed in the existing ruins. Niches that appear filling the old walls of the parish, becoming part of the structure. The central nave ends up becoming a large unroofed gallery that is surrounded by the different piles of niches. The relatives rest under the protection of the pre-existence, an image that becomes as shocking as it is evocative.

With the passing of the centuries, the whole of the ruin is occupied, creating the need to extend the useful space. The solution is one of tremendous simplicity and logic: to surround the ruin by populating the promontory. New streets are generated where the niches are now outside the parish cloth, which becomes a sculptural element in the background, to look at the ocean.

In 1893 it was decided to delimit the surface of the cemetery. This operation was entrusted to the architect Lluís Domènech i Montaner, who was also commissioned to make one of the crypts. The delimitation is resolved by means of a masonry wall finished off with pinnacles. There is a difference in height between the floor of the upper part and the coronation of these perimeter walls. This difference allows the vision of the landscape through it. The access door to the complex is resolved with a semicircular arch decorated with modernist motifs that follow reminiscences of the Gothic. The operation ends with the finishing touch by the sculptor Josep Llimona i Bruguera with his Exterminating Angel, who now watches over the cemetery from the heights of the ruin, becoming a landmark in this environment.

Modernist entrance door by Lluís Domènech i Montaner.

The result is a picturesque work where the decisions of a population end up generating a peculiar landscape and atmosphere. The ruin, deteriorated by time, now shelters the new home of their deceased. The sea is within reach of its niches, as a backdrop that can still be enjoyed by the souls who walk these streets. Nature, spirit and time are linked in this eternal rest.

Exterminating Angel by Josep Llimona i Bruguera.

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